I Had My COVID Jab This Week. I Also Spent My Week Having A Nervous Breakdown.

I’m not a fan of clichés, but I’m going to start this weeks blog with one. My last seven days have been quite the emotional roller-coaster. I have gone from uncontrollable fear to unadulterated highs and it’s all down to finally booking my COVID vaccination.

I’ve been entitled to have my jab for about four months now but I have resolutely avoided organising it. Whenever my colleagues, friends or family have asked if I’ve had it, I’ve increasingly sounded like an absolute passionate conspiracy theorist. I’m not. But that’s exactly what it has sounded like.

“I’m just holding off for a bit longer, see what the research says.”

“I have a healthy immune system. I’ll let others get it first.”

“BILL GATES IS A SATANIC PAEDOPHILE WHO WANTS TO INSERT TRACKING CHIPS INTO OUR ARMS!”

You see, I don’t believe any of this, but I was willing to say anything to hide the fact that I have a really bad fear of needles. It actually has an official term called ‘trypanophobia.’ However, my friends sympathetically refer to it as, ‘being a massive pussy.’

I’ve always had a fear of needles for as far back as I can remember. I was the shortest kid in my year – the runt of the litter. So the school nurse would routinely refer me to have blood tests to figure out the bizarre mystery of my lack of height. She would genuinely look at my 5’3 father and 5’2 mother in the eyes while having these conversations. I mean, I’m no medical expert, but even I know that these two diminutive humans were never going to create a Shaquile O’Neal.

I remember one particular visit to the hospital when they put needles in both my arms and legs at the SAME time. It was horrific. The nurse in charge tried to calm me by saying, “Once they’re in, we have a PlayStation you can play on.” Even at eight I wasn’t stupid enough to think that this was a good deal. Four hours of trauma that would linger with me for the rest of my life for a go on ‘Tony Hawks Pro Skater?’ No thanks, lady.

But alas, my time was running out. I knew my list of excuses were seriously depleted and that I was going to get it eventually. So on Sunday evening, I bit the bullet and booked it.

The appointment was booked for Tuesday morning. Now, from the moment I booked it and every moment leading up to actually getting the vaccination, all I was filled with was stomach churning thoughts about getting it. I couldn’t eat properly, I couldn’t sleep properly. It was horrible. My every living second occupied by the thought of my skin being aggressively pierced by some middle aged woman just wanting to finish her shift so she could get home.

With my nerves shattered and my body exhausted Tuesday arrived.

My usual morning routine usually consists of having a cup of tea or two, reading a couple of chapters of the book I’m reading or scrolling mindlessly on my phone. This morning was different. There was no tea. There was no reading. There was no scrolling. There was however excessive diarrhoea. Just hours of fear induced defecation. At one point, with the clock ticking down and the time of my appointment getting ever nearer, I found myself genuinely tearing up during one of my visits to the bathroom. The only sound filling the silence between plops was my pathetic cries of, “I can’t do this.”

I did however muster the courage to wipe and leave and just a mere fifteen minutes later from having a shit based breakdown I was stood at the door to the clinic.

I was welcomed by a young man at the door who I dutifully informed that I was there for my vaccination. I must have looked terrified because he quickly smirked and said, “Scared?” I was worried that everyone at the clinic would be cold and would just think I was a massive coward, but his warm smile put me at ease instantly. I smiled back and with our blossoming friendship cemented, he continued to reassure me.

“Are you scared of the needle itself or what’s in it?”

“Oh no. I trust the science. It’s just the needle. I have this silly longstanding fear.”

“Mate, you won’t even feel it going in.”

“I’M USED TO THAT SENTENCE.”

My top lip sweating and my sense of friendship completely overestimated he went from being welcoming to awkward in just a matter of seconds. Without saying a further word to me, he handed me a document and requested I take a seat.

So like a man who had just inappropriately joked about penetration, I slowly made my way to the waiting area.

I looked down at the piece of paper I had been given and saw the number ’49’ scribbled at the top. Then, a nurse appeared at the door just in front of me and bellowed it out. For a second, like a rabbit caught in the headlights, I just stared back at her.

“If I don’t move she won’t know it’s me.” My internal monologue muttered.

“This can be my new life now, I’ll just sit here forever.” I continued like the moron I am.

However, without warning, my legs took control and before I knew it, I found myself walking towards her.

This was it.

I sat down. Inhaling gigantic breaths and looking like I was about to faint, I cry-whispered, “Get it over with, please… ” She then preceded to read out a number of generic mandated questions which my voice decided to answer in the same tone as a teenage boy in the midst of his voice breaking.

With the administration over, I closed my eyes.

“All done.”

I had literally felt nothing and with the adrenaline and relief coarsing through my veins I misjudged my reply.

“Jesus FUCKING Christ. Is that it?!”

My voice now back to normal but my eyes now widened like I had done a fist full of cocaine, I stared intensely at the nurse like I was on some sort of vaccination high.

“CAN I HAVE MY SECOND ONE NOW!?”

The nurse was clearly becoming a little bit weirded out by both my volume and requests for more vaccinations. She requested that I go sit in what can only be described as a holding pen. This, obviously, was standard procedure, but I couldn’t help feel that I would have been sent somewhere to calm down regardless.

After twenty minutes of sitting, it was now time for me to leave. With the last remnants of confidence still in my system I left the building with a strut and jumped astride my bike. My feet touched the pedals, and then, almost as if it had been waiting in the shadows, it was back. That familiar worrying voice.

“Oi Paul?! What if you get those severe side effects?”

Brilliant.

We Were Meant To Be In Marrakech Last Week. We Ended Up Going To Wales. THANKS COVID!

A couple of years ago, before the world was under siege from COVID, me and my girlfriend booked quite a fancy holiday to Marrakech. We booked one of those incredibly extravagant five star hotels that will almost certainly have me stressing out as we approach it in a taxi.

DOES THE MAN BRING OUR BAGS TO THE ROOM?

WILL I GET JUDGED FOR USING CUTLERY WRONG?

IS EVERYONE HERE GOING TO BE STUCK UP ARSEHOLES?

Ultimately, I know I’ll let my class anxiety get the better of me and it won’t be long before I’m moaning that we should have just booked a budget hotel. This will then almost certainly be followed by a thousand mile stare from my girlfriend and a significant period of awkward silence in a Moroccan Uber.

Anyway, this ‘relaxing’ holiday was meant to be this week. However, due to the ongoing global pandemic it obviously couldn’t go ahead and we instead decided to find a cheap alternative that could be easily driven to.

The cheap alternative to Morocco was Wales. Naturally.

We left Friday morning, but like every working class person who lives in a slightly dodgy area, the main aim was to make it look like we were doing anything BUT going on holiday. Consequently, we slowly started loading the car up three whole days prior to actually leaving. Generally, this involved tip toeing stealthily to the car with an array of different holiday related items and praying you didn’t bump into the local scumbag. It always seems like a good idea, but in retrospect, even the local scumbag isn’t going to believe you when you tell him you’re just, ‘popping to the shops’ with a foldable chair under one arm and an inflatable novelty donut for a swimming pool around your waist.

After the car was fully packed, I went ahead and gave my best traditional fake farewell to a fake family member that was still fake pottering around the house.

“We’re just leaving to definitely NOT go on holiday Great-Grandad Charles and we will be back home intermittently to check on you. It would be a terrible time to burgle this property. Also, please keep taking your prostate medicine. “

With my award winning acting complete and fake medical advice given, it was time for me, my girlfriend, and toy poodle Belle to hit the road and set off on our summer holiday.

“We’re all going on our COVID holiday…”

Quite quickly, however, we encountered our first issue when the aforementioned toy poodle started panting rather excessively. My girlfriend, who is a worrier at the best of times, suggested that despite the dog not having access to her bowl, she must be given water instantly. As a result, I now found myself crafting a makeshift bowl out of empty plastic vegan sausage roll packaging. Upon being given the nod of approval from the boss, I placed the newly crafted dog bowl in front of our withering canine.

Nothing. Nada. She just looked back at me blankly in the way that only dogs can do. I took this as a clear sign that our companion was fine. My girlfriend on the other hand still wasn’t convinced and signalled to a packet of crisp I was currently attempting to consume.

“She’ll drink if there’s food in there. Just lick off the salt and vinegar on those and put it in the water…”

I just looked back at my girlfriend blankly in only the way boyfriends can do when they’ve been asked to lick off crisp flavouring in broad daylight like an absolute creep.

Without the energy or desire to argue back, I did as I was told. So there I was. Just thirty five minutes into our holiday and I was sat there as we whizzed passed the ‘Welcome to Wales’ sign sucking off a crisp like some sort of snack based pervert.

I have been to Wales countless times and it never fails to amaze me how absolutely beautiful it is. The long, winding roads sandwiched between rolling green hills and coastlines of pure blue sea. My Dad used to take me and my sisters on these types of holidays all the time when we were kids, and as soon as we saw the sign welcoming us to Wales, he would religiously ask the same question like some sort of right wing travel agent, “Why do you need your silly foreign holidays when you have places like this on your doorstep?” The eight year old me didn’t have the capacity to counter this argument, and as I become older, I now largely find myself agreeing with him. I say ‘largely’ because I’m still yet to take a city break in Spain and be welcomed by tacky roadside diners named ‘Roger’s Speedy Mealz’ and quite a significant number of dead badgers that litter the roads.

We arrived at out first destination, ‘Heron Lake Resort’ in the stereotypical picturesque town of ‘Caerwys’. It was a luxury resort full of wooden lodges and cabins. Each one with the novelty of having its very own hot tub. I am a sucker for hot tubs and therefore couldn’t get my clothes off quick enough.

Unsurprisingly, as often is the case with Wales, it was absolutely lashing down. I’m talking torrential rain. My girlfriend rather sensibly pointed out that as we were here for a few days, it was probably best to wait until the weather improved before we took a dip. But like a child high on E numbers I couldn’t wait. I simply didn’t have the required will power. Quickly, I ran downstairs in my trunks like a member of ‘Baywatch’ intent on making the most of their financial decision to holiday there and within seconds was sat comfortably in the heated bubbles while my head and glasses were assaulted by rain.

The great British holiday had officially begun.

It was only after sitting in the hot tub for two straight hours that I decided to read the instructional manual.

“We advise sitting in the hot tub for no longer than twenty minutes at a time. Skin can react to the chemicals used.”

I awoke the next day with my skin peeling and my penis looking like it belonged to a man thirty years my senior.

With the secret of my wrinkled genitalia buried within me, it was now time for breakfast.

My girlfriend sorts everything. Whatever event or meal we have been to in the entirety of our relationship, she has organised it. So when she informed me that we were going for our breakfast at a placed called ‘Brynford Pet Cemetery’ I thought nothing of it. It’s probably some hipster place that has a quirky controversial name to gain publicity I thought. However, upon arriving it became glaringly obvious that it was an ACTUAL graveyard for cats and dogs.

“Dogs welcome.”

On our walk up to the café, I could see well kept graves with sincere dedications to animals that had passed.

“Here lies Rocky. He loved chasing balls. Taken too soon.”

“In loving memory of Jingles. A friend, a confidant, a cat.”

Admittedly, I’m being a bit of a prick in an attempt to be funny, but it was actually quite a lovely little place with really decent intentions. Still, for anyone wondering, it is a bit weird eating your beans on toast surrounded by dead sausage dogs.

In the evening, we decided to check out a pub that we had heard good things about called the ‘Dinorben Arms.’ The pub itself was almost castle like. It was situated on a steep incline and looked like it had sprung up naturally in the Welsh hills it now resided in.

The pub terrace with countryside views. Splendid.
Please note – the pints in Wales are not bigger. I’m just a very small man.

The only problem with it being half way up a hill was that the car park was right at the very top. Now, my girlfriend is the driver in our relationship. She’s basically my own personal chauffeur. So it would be ridiculously ungrateful to mock her driving skills wouldn’t it? Well, that’s exactly what I’m about to do. For some strange reason, on both occasions we visited this pub, she lost confidence half way up this almost vertical road and we were temporarily frozen in fear. What this resulted in, was me gripping on to my chair for dear life and screaming directly in her face while she held tightly on to her steering wheel and whispered her final goodbyes to this cruel world as images of us essentially reversing off a cliff played in her mind.

There’s nothing like the beginnings of a domestic and a near death experience to get you in the mood for an enjoyable scenic pint.

We were also told that surrounding the pub was a circular walk that was great for a post pint afternoon stroll. So that is exactly what we set out to do. I use the term, ‘set out’ because although our intentions were pure, what actually happened is that we got lost, ended up dodging an insane amount of sheep shit and got absolutely covered in nettle stings. We gave up half way and after about forty minutes of rambling torture ended back on the pub terrace retelling tales of our nightmare while drinking even more alcohol.

After a couple of nights in the luxury surroundings of Caerwys, it was time to move on. Our next stop was at my Mum’s static caravan in the seaside resort of ‘Rhyl.’

This might be a random question. But have you ever bumped into your school crush years after finishing school? You know, in your head you remember them as this attractive individual exuding an overwhelming amount of youthful energy. Then you bump into them twenty years later and they’ve got depressingly bad greasy hair and have lost half of their teeth.

Well, for me that’s Rhyl.

As a child, Rhyl was this magical little place full of bright lights and loud sounds. It was a haven from all those dreary countryside walks that my parents would drag us on. So obviously, as soon as we got to the caravan, I insisted that we take a walk to the town centre.

Now, I don’t know if it was nostalgia that had made me misremember Rhyl as this little beautiful quaint seaside town, but jesus it was depressing. My school crush didn’t just have greasy hair and poor dental hygiene, it now had rows of boarded up shops and had been heavily shit on by feral seagulls.

We did a dutiful walk down what was left of the promenade and quickly headed back to the caravan.

Rhyl aside, North Wales was glorious and we spent the next few days taking day trips to places like ‘Llandudno’ and ‘Conwy.’ Gorgeous places steeped in incredible history.

Llandudno
Conwy.

My only pet peeve with these places was the over abundance of cheap tacky tourist souvenirs that were spilling out of every shop within a mile radius. In fact, the sheer number of plastic keyrings and tatty tea towels that lined the streets really made me miss those dead badgers.

As I type this, my summer holiday is now over and I’m back in the unrelenting grind of capitalism.

I tell you what though, I’d give anything now to be walking down that promenade in Rhyl.

I Finally Need A Haircut. Does Anyone Know Where I Can Get An Underground Illicit Appointment?

I’ve always been told from a really young age that I’m losing my hair. That I’m balding. But if the truth be told, I’ve always had the same depressing hairline. It’s not receding. It’s not balding. It’s just thin and wispy. And it’s always been this way. I was the only five year old in the school sandpit with the same hairdo as a forty five year old accountant whose wife was cheating on him.

If my hair style had a name it would be Keith. Or Barry.

Up until now, the most depressing part of COVID and lockdown for me was the fact that I still hadn’t got to the stage where I needed my hair cutting. Despite rarely visiting the barbers in the last twelve months, it had barely grown. It’s simply spent most of it’s time just looking down on me from high and doing absolutely nothing but mock my awful genetics.

A few weeks back I was cycling to work and I could feel what I thought was the wind blowing in my hair. I had images of ‘Captain America’ on his motorbike. I was the height of cool. That was until I got into the changing rooms and discovered that I had one hair out of place. One pathetic strand of hair had been blowing in the wind. I was less ‘Captain America’ and more ‘Captain Soviet Union As It Was In Its Last Days.’

I really wish I had long flowing hair. I really do. I remember when I was eighteen and tried to grow it. I thought I’d end up looking like one of the cool indie musicians of the time. Perhaps an Alex Turner or a Miles Kane type? But that didn’t happen. What happened was that the sides and back grew outwards and the top refused to move. The last thing I needed as an eighteen year old with braces, glasses and a lack of height, was a fucking mullet. But there I was in 2008 looking like Billie Ray Cyrus.

I spent most of my teenage years looking at what best could be described as ‘awkward’, but this was a phase where I regularly looked like a ‘Guess Who’ character. A ‘Guess Who’ character who could easily be discovered with one simple question about who was most likely to hold on to their virginity for the foreseeable future.

But the time has finally arrived – I officially need a haircut. I’m now at that awkward stage where I have hair protruding out of the sides of my glasses and I’m the proud owner of one of those little pony tails that are about half an inch long. The only issue is that barbers are currently forbidden to open. I have to go rogue if I want this pony tail dead.

I found myself in a similar predicament earlier in the lockdown when I got to the point where I needed my beard trimming. I was more bearded than I had ever been before. I was at peak alpha male. But my natural laziness set in and after a couple of days of using beard oil and wax, I decided it wasn’t worth the hassle and that it had to go. The only issue at this stage however, was that my normal barbers were not legally allowed to do beards. I was forced to go underground.

After a few days of research (One Google search) I found myself in a chair and moments away from being presentable again. I closed my eyes and enjoyed the process. And I say, ‘enjoyed,’ but what basically preceded to happen, was that my life was ruined. I walked in with the most manliness facial hair I had ever grown and walked out looking like Ali G.

Please see the evidence below.

You can see the pain in my eyes.

And despite being absolutely devastated, I still lived up to the British stereotype of being too polite to say anything and gave the man a healthy tip. That man is still out there believing he gave me the greatest beard trim of my life. Little does he know that as soon as I was out of sight I found myself weeping outside a KFC window.

If this has taught me anything, it has taught me to have patience and wait until my usual place reopens. However, if anyone does know of anyone with a dodgy moral compass and an NVQ in barbering, please send them my way.